Pianist Dr Jonathan Clarke created an indelible impression making his debut in Sri Lanka on July 13 at the Main Ballroom of the Mount Lavinia Hotel when he teamed up with the De Lanerolle Brothers to bring to light “The Classics”. Jonathan played music by Chopin, C.P. Bach, Gershwin & Billy Joel solo and accompanied the brothers with works from Mozart, Handel, Balfe, Adams, Seargent to name a few.
Jonathan opened with Bach’s Solfegietto Suite played with vigour. Curiously, this was the least successful piece of the evening, Jonathan was probably undecided whether to play it for speed and fluency or for spacious drama.
|Brothers in harmony: Rohan and Ishan Pic by J. Weerasekera
However, his tempos were well handled sometimes smearing the colours, an approach that worked wonderfully well when he came to the more brisk passages later on.
What followed were the lyrical and jazzier pieces of Chopin’s Ballade no 3 in A flat Major, The Man I Love from Gershwin and the Root Beer Rag by Billy Joel! : His ability to create music box textures, the added rubato and rhythmic licence that stamped his own personality on all of these pieces and the emotionally charged ascents and descents were magic.
The most well received was the Footbeer Rag by Billy Joel - going by the audience’s applause. What struck me was the versatility of performing Chopin to Billy Joel.
If one thought this was great the best was yet to come. The brothers teamed up with Dr Clarke and took the 350+ audience to a different level keeping all of us spell-bound.
There were many who were not purely classics lovers but they all had great things to say going by what I heard during the five minute break which actually took 15 minutes - Sri Lankan time!! Rohan - the international performer he is, showed us what controlled singing is all about not trying to blow off the top. He showed brilliant articulation and poise, singing from Mozart’s Se Vuol Ballare to Handel’s Where Ee’r you walk to Stephen Adam’s Thora and the Neapolitan Songs.
Ishan, the younger of the two gave a touching rendition of I dreamed a dream from Les Mis and the perennial Ole Man River from Showboat sung much lower than the man himself Paul Robeson.
The duets that they performed (one hopes they will sing more together) were outstanding.
Watchman what of the night to the Neapolitan songs were sung with rhythmic artistry bringing out the long phrasing which Ishan made in the middle of the watchman to Rohan singing the pianissimo parts to near perfection.
The performance was not overdone – they kept it simple and used the acoustics in the hall - a rarity among many singers and accompanists today.
The near long 90 minute concert however had its drawbacks - one hopes the host hotel would learn from this and up their standards as the food and the service lacked the professional touch.
After the Neapolitan songs, a spontaneous standing ovation, saw them present their encore -The Impossible Dream - a touching end to an elegant testimony to some fine artistes of intelligence, technique and the bravura temperament.